Five British MPs, more than 30 feminist groups, Dalit organisations and many more Indian diaspora organisations have sent a letter to the UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet saying that the Hathras rape and murder was “part of a systematic attack on women and oppressed castes.
The letter says that: “while attacks on Dalits and women have escalated vastly all over India since 2014, when the Hindu-supremacist Modi regime with its entrenched Casteist and misogynist ideology came to power, the Adityanath government in UP has seen by far the largest number of attacks and atrocities.”
The letter urges Bachelet to “urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi to dismiss Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh”, and to “set up an international enquiry into the Hathras rape case and other rapes and crimes against women, particularly Dalit and oppressed caste women in UP since the Adityanath government came to power in the state.
We know the name of the girl raped and mutilated by the Upper-Caste Hindus in a Hathras village in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh? Does it matter if you knew it, and do we care if the so-called twice-born Hindus raped or killed her? Did we ever care for her dignity, family, and right to live when she was alive?
For thousands of years, the people of power and higher castes have raped, tortured, and murdered her. For thousands of years, the clergy and the power elites have enjoyed her humiliation.
Hers is not just a name but a culture, a religious practice, and a scriptural curse.
Hindu Varna system practices untouchability towards lower-castes, Muslims, Christians, and even Sikhs. Those who are not part of the Hindu upper-castes are profane and deserve to live on Hindu society’s periphery.
Yet when it comes to devouring the body of a woman belonging to lower castes or other untouchable communities, the upper-caste men are the first ones to become beasts and break the untouchability rule of their faith.
In Hathras, they got caught because the family cried and one young girl in the media relentlessly reported on the case challenging the human conscience. But for every caste reported, hundreds remain unreported. Their crimes are well known for centuries, but the clergy, the traditions, the religious practices, and power elites of the upper-castes never acted in defence of her.
Not compatible with their claim of human dignity and equality, even Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs have castes as part of social structure. In Bangladesh and Pakistan, they are no better than their counterparts in India.
The Hathras cruelty is not a single event. Every day in India, lower-castes men and women suffer humiliation. Some 30 percent Indians wear the badge of lower-caste constitutionally. In offices, educational institutions, public life, and the government, they face discrimination and humiliation. The only place where no upper-caste cares about untouchability is the lower-caste female body for raping, torturing, and killing.
No one knows the exact number of rape victims from the lower castes. India’s top police officials come from upper-castes. They allow the recording of only those cases that often become the headlines in the media. Ninety percent of cases go unreported. The police, the public representatives, and the intelligence officials are part of the circle that allows the rape to go unreported and participate in the rape when they have that opportunity.
The rape of vulnerable women from lower-castes is a norm and religiously sanctioned practice. Why should any human care about a low-caste woman and her body, when the deities do not give them any respect?
But what is shocking is that Hindu upper-caste women have allowed their men to rape and torture lower caste women without raising their voices throughout centuries. They are victims of Hindu male chauvinistic traditions, yet through their silence, they have approved the violence and rape against women whose castes are profane in their theology.
The devadasi system practiced in Temples is an example of exploitation against women in the name of religion. Devadasi or Devaradiyar means “servant of God.” These women were dedicated to God in marriage, meaning that they could not marry any ‘mortal.’ Nevertheless, they were free to choose partners, from among married and unmarried men alike. These relationships could be extended and stable or just for a short period. The priests are the first to enjoy their bodies in gang-rape format that the modern world calls threesome, foursome, or unlimited sum.
The practice began in the seventh century. At present, Devadasis are nothing more than sex slaves or child prostitutes, dedicated to temples when they are as young as four or five years old. Almost all of them are Dalits, with a majority belonging to the Madiga and Valmiki castes, two of India’s most underprivileged castes.
The Devadasis of modern India are in parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra. The upper-castes call them Mathangi in Maharashtra, Jogini or Mathamma in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and Devadasi in Karnataka. The ones who use them sexually are the priests, religious management, and public officials who receive them from the clergy as gifts.
No law would prevent this cruel injustice to lower caste women. Other religious communities feel intimidated talking about it. They are fearful of being seen as Muslims or Christians against Hinduism.
But this is a practice no decent human being can ignore. Suppose the Hindu society fails to eradicate the culture of rape. In that case, others must step in and ensure that no one faces the indignity in the name of caste or religion or ethnicity. Every human deserves human dignity, and every human must defend it.